Shunpike: The Business of Art

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Natasha Bacca (Credit : Andrew Pogue)

What is the Storefronts program?

Storefronts is an innovative arts program that activates communities, neighborhoods and streets by matching artists and pop-up creative enterprises with vacant or under-utilized retail space.

The program began in early 2010, when members of Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square and Chinatown-International districts sought solutions for the growing number of vacant storefronts in the area.  At the time, the effects of the economic downturn were obvious and Seattle’s neighborhoods were suffering.

Seeing opportunity in these vacant spaces in Seattle’s historic arts district, the program was initiated to provide temporary, rent-free display spaces for local artists, revitalize blank windows and empty storefronts, and ensure foot traffic, attention, and maintenance to these buildings.

Storefronts engages artists, property owners, neighborhood associations, and local government in a new way, reducing vagrancy and encouraging rental of these spaces. Since 2010, the Storefronts program has activated spaces in Auburn, Bellevue, Mount Vernon, and six Seattle neighborhoods including Belltown, Capitol Hill, the International District, Pioneer Square, South Lake Union, and the Waterfront.

In all, over 170 artists have been temporarily provided a storefront in which to install their artistic work or pop-up creative enterprise. Of these, 5 pop-up creative enterprises went on to lease the storefront they were given and establish viable, ongoing, local businesses.

What types of Storefronts projects are there?

In general, there are two types of Storefronts projects:

Installations – these are 2-D or 3-D artworks installed in a locked storefront, display window or vitrine, for a period of up to three months.

Creative Enterprises – these are enterprises where the public is invited into a vacant storefront to engage with the work of the artist.  Creative enterprises can range from boutiques producing and selling original artworks and designed objects, to temporary museums, venues, or experiential projects. They run for a period of 3 – 6 months.

How does the Storefronts program work?

The Storefronts program is managed by Shunpike – a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting independent artists and the communities they call home.

Every year, Shunpike calls for proposals from artists based in Washington State who are interested in participating in the Storefronts program. From the many applications received, a panel comprised of local arts, real estate, community, and neighborhood professionals selects a roster of artist proposals for placement. Their work is diverse, of high quality, and ‘G-Rated’ for public display.

Shunpike then negotiates with property owners and managers to match the work of selected artists to vacant storefronts, or to empty display windows and vitrines in need of visual content. The projects inhabit these spaces for 3 – 6 months, or until such time as the property is leased.

For greater details on how the Storefronts program works, we invite you to click on one of the FAQ links below.  If you still have questions, feel free to contact Anne Blackburn, Storefronts Manager at or call the Shunpike office at (206) 905-1026 x104.


Andrew Pogue is a photographer specializing in architecture and the built environment and is documenting Storefronts as an on-going personal project. |